Ladies First: The Best Female Characters Of Sci-Fi Film And Television

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TrinityTrinity (The Matrix)
If your idea of a heroine is someone whose outfit spits in the face of animal rights activists everywhere — and why wouldn’t it be? — then there’s no reason to look beyond Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity, the leather-wearing badass who serves as second-in-command to Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus on the Nebuchadnezzar. A role whose shadow Moss may never escape from, Trinity was someone who often came across as cooler than the main character, especially since that main character was Keanu Reeves’ wha-spouting Neo/Thomas Anderson. If you’ve got bad guys with itchy trigger fingers and the ability to walk all over walls and do crazy flips and shit, Trinity is a necessity to have at your side.

Of course, these opinions are mostly centered on the stellar first film in the Matrix trilogy, as Trinity’s role was morph(eus)ed into the love interest and pushed to the back burner for The Matrix Reloaded. And though her death in The Matrix Revolutions was necessary for Neo to ascend to full heroism, it still felt like the character didn’t come full circle in living up to her potential. She was a wry mystery whose brain contained secrets that normal humans wouldn’t understand, and she was able to do things with her body that most people can only dream of, as well as being extremely handy with a gun and a chair. Especially a chair. – Nick

UhuraNyota Uhura (Star Trek)
Not every badass needs to be able to kick the crap out of you in a straight-up fist fight, a point proved readily by Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura on Star Trek, though Zoe Saldana’s rebooted version totally could. She may not be known for her technical combat skills — if we’re being honest, was anyone on the original Trek series all that skilled? — but Uhura certainly smashed the hell out of some pretty rigid social barriers in her day.

Just how rare was it to see an African-American woman on TV in 1966? When Whoopi Goldberg first saw Uhura, she famously proclaimed to her father, “I just saw a black woman on television, and she ain’t no maid.” The first African-American woman to fly on the Space Shuttle, Dr. Mae Jemison, has specifically cited both Uhura and Star Trek as key influences on her decision to join NASA. And if that isn’t an impressive enough level of influence, Nichols wanted to leave the show after the first season, but Martin Luther King Jr. himself convinced her to stay on because of the show’s vision of a future of racial harmony and cooperation.

Beyond a larger cultural impact, Uhura was a key part of the crew, equally as brave and competent as anyone aboard the Enterprise, regardless of race or gender. That is definitely someone to emulate. – Brent

ZoeZoe Washburne (Firefly)
Oh, Zoe. Firefly creator Joss Whedon is amazingly adept at creating strong, dynamic female characters, and of course one aspect of those characters is their love lives. Typically in Joss’ works, however, those love lives are a mess. You’re either having to skewer your vampire boyfriend to save the world, or you’re falling for that charming British gent just in time for your soul to be obliterating by a parasitical godling. But with Zoe and Wash, we finally got to see Joss’ vision of a healthy, stable, committed relationship. Zoe and Wash were perfect for each other, in all the unexpected ways the best relationships are. Like Farscape’s Aeryn and Crichton, Zoe and Wash flip the alpha-male marriage on its head: Wash wouldn’t have a chance against Zoe if it ever came to blows, but he’s sweet and always has her back and makes her laugh, a vital commodity when your life mostly involves living on the run from an oppressive government. Wash and Zoe make each other better. So, of course, they’re doomed.

It’s funny that one of the most defining moments of Zoe’s life — the death of Wash — comes near the de facto end of her story. With Firefly’s story collapsed into the salvaged finale that is Serenity, we don’t get to see much of how Zoe will deal with the loss of Wash — or at least, we hadn’t until recently. Thankfully Zoe’s story is continuing in the form of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, the in-canon comic series that picks up where the movie left off. And unsurprisingly, Zoe is in a very dark place as it begins: pregnant with Wash’s child, still reeling from his death, and with the crew of Serenity arguably in worse shape than they were before they won a Pyrrhic victory over the Alliance during the movie’s climax. It’s a bad time to be Zoe.

Thankfully there’s no shortage of Firefly badassery to suggest that Zoe will carry on, even if she never really recovers. Mal may be the captain of the boat and the one calling the shots, but it’s Zoe whose opinion he trusts the most. They’ve had each other’s back for years, and Mal knows that she is almost always going to be right, even when that truth is irritating as hell. She’s the quiet, calm voice of reason where it’s needed, the voice of conscience when emotions might get heated, and the only person on the boat perhaps more capable of keeping everybody on Serenity alive and safe than Mal himself. Without Wash, Serenity is a darker, more desperate place. But without Zoe? They’d just be flat-out screwed. – David

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  1. Glen says:

    This isn’t so much a list of the best, more just a list of female characters. Still, they’re all awesome.

  2. Nathaniel Bacon says:

    Where the Hell are Buffy Summers and Xena of Amphipolis?… This is inexcusable.

  3. Joelle says:

    I’m the biggest Buffy fan ever, but didn’t put her on the list because she’s not really sci-fi–she’s more fantasy. But yeah, she deserves a spot on any list!

  4. Denise Nader says:

    Hi there! I see you missed Samantha Carter from Stargate… She blew up a sun and saved Earth more than a couple of times whith science. Plus, she could kick ass in battle.

    Anyways, I’m glad to see Ivanova there. And Aeryn Sun. And Roslin!

  5. trekkie says:

    Where is 7 of 9.

  6. MrSatyre says:

    No Major Motoko Kusanagi?

  7. Johan Andersson says:

    See a lot of my favourite characters here, but no one from Stargate series at all? and way to few from Star Trek universe…

  8. kabienvenue says:

    I know this is just SciFi but where are some of the Doctor Who Companions? Sarah Jane Smith? River Song?

  9. Trickster says:

    River Song?

  10. ram says:

    The idea of having this list without Kira from DS9 is ridiculous.

  11. Palious13 says:

    What about River Song from Doctor Who? She should totally be on the list.

  12. Yahraah says:

    Where is Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter?

  13. Singanddance says:

    You have missed 7 of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager, while apparently ODing on Battlestar Galactica. Blech.

  14. Sarah Jane Smith says:

    You completely ignored any Doctor Who ladies. Bad bad bad… Surely River Song and/or Sarah Jane Smith deserves on this list.

  15. Dona McAdam says:

    Why didn’t you include Sam Carter from Stargate SG-1? She blew up a sun for cry in’ out loud!!! Saved the world A LOT!!!

  16. Mitch S says:

    Ripley needs to take a flamethrower to the AdExcite people.

  17. je says:

    What about Capt Janeway–Voyager, or Aeon Flux, or 7/9, or the original space babe Barberella, the blonde girl form the Maxx, or La Femme Nikita–tv series. he lady from Buck Rodgers, or even Xena- Warrior princess.

  18. Harriet says:

    How about Vasquez from Aliens?. Sje was the baddest, but she never got he respect she deserved …

  19. Lloyd Thompson Campbell says:

    No Janeway? WTF.

  20. James Verdejo says:

    Where the hell is Mila Jovovich/ALICE??

  21. dave says:

    what about River Song from Dr. Who?

  22. Brus says:

    They forgot Buffy.

  23. ffontao says:

    Nobody mentioned T’Pol of Star Trek: Enterprise! Kira Nerys of ST:DS9 is worth mentioning too, a real badass and not hard to look at either. But Ripley is the all-time winner badass of sci-fi!

  24. Francis Sanchez Rivera says:

    Uh… What about Sarah Walker from Chuck? and Agent Romanov aka Black Widow?

  25. Cee Ees says:

    Where on Earth (and the Milky Way) is Sam Carter??? I mean, really.

  26. Ashley Beeching says:

    I would of added Judge Anderson from 2012 film Dredd, as played by Olivia Thirlby.
    A very well rounded character and action heroine.
    Great list though. 🙂

  27. Spirit Sixtyseven says:


  28. Kristi Kinch says:

    Uh, no Samantha Carter from SG1? oookaaay then.

  29. kon says:

    I only know Ripley and Sara Connor..All the others are not so famous to the world. PS where is Xena the Warrior Princess anyway? When I hear kick ass women my mind goes straight to Xena..

  30. Vinnicius Dantas says:


  31. Ollie Walton-harrod says:

    Princess Leia Organa is definitely worthy.
    I get to Ellen Ripley: “Wait, why does the list continue”. – She’s so good.
    I get to Aeryn Sun “Yes”. I’m surprised Farscape is remembered here because it’s not too famous a series. But I’m glad; and she is definitely a good character. And I prefer her to Zoe and River, I think actually (Zoe, only just, though).
    River Tam – Yes, obviously. It’s ‘Firefly’. Though I hadn’t actually thought “oh, they’re definitely going to be on there” when I read the introduction.
    Trinity – I suppose, is badass. But I don’t like ‘The Matrix’, Possibly, mainly because, I don’t like the acting of Keanu Reeves (Neo) or Carrie Anne-Moss (Trinity) in it; I found both their characters boring. If only Will Smith had accepted the offer of the role of Neo.
    Nyota Uhura – Isn’t she just as good as anyone working on a spaceship console? I don’t think she’s anything special. – Other than, of course, being controversial at the time by being a black woman, but that wasn’t her character, that was her.

    Zoe Washburne – I would certainly not put as the best. I do really like her. But I prefer Aeryn, Leia and Ripley.

    I don’t think much of ‘The Hunger Games’ but Isuppose Katniss Everdeen’s character is a strong one; despite her inability to deal with telling a guy she doesn’t like him. – I’ve only seen the first ‘The Hunger Games’ film.
    I can’t really remember the ‘Terminator’ films.

  32. jeffrey says:

    what about SEVEN OF NINE or Captain JANEWAY

  33. Mathias says:

    Where the f*ck is Buffy Summers ?! This list is meaningless without her.

  34. Daniel Learmouth says:

    No Major from Ghost in the Shell?

  35. Awesome list! I had a really hard time putting together my top 10. I wanted to add Zoe and River but my list was about movies and I think they are more associated with Firefly and not Serenity. Check out my list over at New Geek Protocol!

  36. Daniele Fernandes says:

    Where is Samantha Carter? Or any lady from Doctor Who? There are some great characters on the list, but c’mon, Sam Carter is one of the best sci fi character from all time!